Are you still with me? There’s more. Essentially, our brains are trying to make sense of an enormous amount of information (11 million bits every second) and to be able to sift out the irrelevant stuff; we only attend to 40 bits per second; so, it needs to be able to have a bit of evolutionary help. Hence, the brain’s hardwiring ability to take shortcuts, known as ‘heuristics’.
So, what does this have to do with #The Dress? Toast? And Obama’s Elf, you ask? Everything! What we know is the brain can trick us and make us experience the world in a different way. This means that we are different. Hooray!
The problem is that our brains can be prone to errors also and this is where problems can arise.
Let’s take these points a step further. Let us consider how we experience conflicts and miscommunication at work. Ever had a conversation with a colleague where you just couldn’t agree on an important issue? Of course you have. It happens all of the time. It’s called ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ or in scientific speak; individual differences and the polite version; agreeing to disagree; except that we still don’t know how to get along.
That’s where I can come in. As a business psychologist, I understand how people can differ in the way they think, feel and behave. That’s my job. That is what I do. Want to know more about what makes you work? And, what makes your colleagues work? Get in touch. Let’s chat.
Do you look forward to Mondays or do you want to shoot the whole day down? Do you feel your work matters or makes a difference? Do you feel inspired and energised by what you do? Have you found a deeper meaning and purpose and want to effect change? No? Then you are not alone.
A staggering 50 to 70% (depending on sector) of employees are disengaged at work and it is costing the industry 15 billion per year in lost productivity (HRNetworkJobs.com). Employees may be present in body but not in heart or mind. This has now been termed as ‘presenteeism’ (Centre for mental health).
56% of employees are disengaged with the job itself, 47% with the lack of work/life balance and 28% with the salary (Jan Hills, Head, Heart & Brain Consultancy). Generation Y, also known as the Millennials are more interested in work/Life balance than climbing that slippery pole of promotion. Whilst some Millennials want to be shown to their own private office before receiving their awards and accolades before they’ve even lifted their finger to do any work, some care deeply about saving the world and making a difference rather than earning a big salary (Mathew Goldman. CEO of Wallaby).
The challenge is how to engage our workforce, from Generation X (Born between the 1960s to the 1980s); to Gen Y and now Gen Z (Mid 2000s to present day). One size doesn’t fit all and with the ever increasing demands of social media on our attention; it’s becoming more of a challenge to understand what motivates and engages people in the workplace. Our work environments also make our difference on our ability to concentrate. Open plan offices can cause employees to struggle to focus and tune out distractions. This can all add to stress and anxiety.
Being bombarded with emails and managing workloads can also cause employees stress levels to rise. Meeting deadlines can be a challenge when faced with emergent issues that need addressing.
Some strategies that are recommended to manage these competing challenges are:
Offering our employees the opportunity to work flexibly; to job share; to enjoy the benefits of gym membership; to take time out for a sabbatical or to travel and know that their job is secure; to work for an organisation that has the same values as their employees; to have a no emails after 6p.m. and weekends policy; to have meaningful work; to feel appreciated; to be challenged.
If you want to keep your workforce, recognise what motivates them. No longer do they live to work- they work to live and if they don’t like their job? They quit.
Positive emotions open us up. We are able to notice more; like a flower when the sun shines on it. Psychological studies have shown that when we are given doses of positive emotion, we are able to take a moment and notice our surroundings, in other words, see the big picture (Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005).
Eye tracking studies have also demonstrated that when people are given gifts of sweets, they look around and notice more, even in complex situations (Wadlinger and Isaacowitz, 2006). Without these gifts, we tend to just focus on the middle ground and miss information in the wider environment. Positive gifts expand our peripheral vision, widen our awareness and increase creativity.
When working on a creative idea, if an individual gets caught in a negative state, it’s beneficial to go off and get into a good positive mental state and then come back to the creative work (Frederickson).
Resilience also develops through the experience of positive emotions. Young people perform better at exams. Doctors are quicker at diagnosing their patient’s ailments. We plan more and think about what we are going to do next when we are in a positive state. We are able to see people’s individuality and trust people more.
Did you know?
1% of our brain cells are replaced each day. It takes three months to learn new skills or change a habit. This is great to know because we can change behaviours, thoughts and habits. We can develop new ones and become who we want to become. This isn’t an easy thing to do. It takes hard work, effort and reinforcement. As does, losing weight and stopping smoking, for example.
How do we become more positive?
If you spend time each day and focus on fostering self-compassion, this develops resources, e.g., mindfulness and being more in your life, building trust, resilience, increase in physical health and increased vagal tone (healthier heart rate), and a lot more besides.
What’s stopping you?
Overthinking and negative thinking. We have an ability to track for danger and threats in our environment. This evolutionary survival technique was useful in the day when we had to run from a saber toothed cat (often mistakenly called a tiger); but no longer do we face such challenges.
The Business Case
Being positive can help you become more successful because you will be able to bounce back quicker in challenging times; think creatively; focus your attentions on winning contracts; have more energy and health to work effectively; develop better relationships with your customers, colleagues and yourself. The benefits are endless.
Put Positive Psychology in your business strategy today.
Tell me a little bit about you. The dreaded interview question! Some of us who are a bit uncomfortable talking about ourselves can often struggle to say more than one or two things of interest before we have to dig really deep and feel as if we’re just making it all up or telling them what we think they want to hear, in order to get that job!
How well do you know yourself? How do you know what you know? Is it possible to be able to measure personality or are personality measures as reliable as reading someone’s tea leaves, horoscope or palm?
Did you know that 31- 45% of Americans believe that Astrology is scientific or nearly scientific (www.motherjones.com).
Palmistry is a big industry and workshops are offered to teach people how to learn to palm read. It’s depicted as an ancient form of healing and is hypothesised to originate from India.
So what can you tell me about you?
Psychologists are able to measure personality through questionnaires that ask lots of questions about your typical behaviour across given situations. These questions are designed to measure preferences, styles and typical behaviours, thoughts and feelings. The measurement is based upon self-report.
These personality questionnaires differ widely. Some measures are based upon Jungian typology, which talks about different types of personalities, e.g. an extrovert or an introvert; a sensing or intuition; thinking or feeling; and judging or perceiving (www.personality-..info). Here is a link to a quick and free Jungian type questionnaire, called the Myers-Briggs measure. http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp
Other personality measures use scales, rather than types and are more popular with people who don’t like forced choice questionnaires. The big five personality based questionnaires explore facets of the following; openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. An example of this type of measure is the NEO Personality Inventory (www.hogrefe.co.uk); or the WAVE (www.savilleconsulting.com).
What do these measures actual tell me about me?
They measure and predict what you’re likely to do and how you will behave in a given situation. This is of interest to psychologists because we can predict how you are likely to perform within your job. We can measure this against the answers you give in your interview and the performance you demonstrate within work samples as part of a recruitment day. We call these assessments centres.
How accurate are they?
Some are better than others. Psychologists do not use measures like the Myers-Briggs to hire and recruit people. They are not great at allowing us to make comparisons between people. When we select people for a particular role, we need to make comparisons in order to select the right person for the job. The NEO and WAVE personality measures are adopted for this reason; we can compare you to others.
What else are they used for?
Psychometric personality measures and ability tests are really useful in helping people to find out more about their strengths and to help identify gaps or goals. We all have undiscovered potential. Knowing more about who we are can start this conversation and point you in the right direction.
Not all measures are what they appear. Be careful. Always go to a professionally trained psychologist. We have the background, qualifications and ethical training to be able to understand these tests and measures fully. They can be dangerous when misused!
Most of all; enjoy them. They are so interesting. Get in touch and discuss how Workology can help you to discover your undiscovered potential.
Want to raise productivity? Then raise happiness levels. Business psychologists know that by increasing happiness levels amongst employees at work, you raise productivity levels.
How? Hire a business psychologist. They know what works and what doesn’t work. All that glitters is not gold.
Want to reduce employee turnover? Then raise your engagement levels. Business psychologists know that employees who are switched off and disengaged at work or with their jobs will have a higher intention to leave. As an employer, you may not know this until it’s too late and your talent is walking out the door.
How do I raise engagement levels? Hire a business psychologist. It’s what we do. We understand the psychological contract and how to really get to the heart of the issue.
Want to improve performance and develop your people? Then understand what the training gaps are. Year on year, companies invest in training programmes and CPD days. Most of this learning doesn’t get embedded. Most of it isn’t even relevant.
How do you know what they need? Hire a business psychologist. We can carry out a training gaps analysis. We understand the psychology behind learning and what makes learning stick.
Want to attract the most talented people to your company? It’s a risky and expensive business. Often, mistakes occur and the wrong person is hired. Why? Even though you may have got years of experience in recruitment, people make mistakes during the process. Their biases can get in the way.
Are you aware of your own biases? Need a business psychologist to design and implement a well-structured and fair interview, based on best practice? Financially and ethically, it makes sense.
Are you a great Leader? How do you know? Would you like what they say about you when you’ve left the room? Want to develop your leadership skills?
How? Speak to a business psychologist. We know how to coach people on a one to one basis. Our knowledge and skills mean that we are able to draw upon a body of scientific and evidence based practice. We understand the complexities of the workplace and how to develop, nurture and harness leadership qualities.
Do you know and understand yourself, your talents and your people? Want to discover more about your undiscovered potential? Want to know about your blind self?
How? Business psychologists are able to draw upon a number of psychometric measures on ability and personality. We can help you to learn more about your strengths and where your interests really lie. If you love what you do, wouldn’t you be better at it?
This applies to your people too, whether it is an individual or a team. Business psychologists can help teams to understand each other and start to work to their strengths, as a team.
Want to hire someone who can do the job? Know what they are talking about? Save yourself time, effort and finances? Want to know you can trust the expertise of the individual you’ve just hired?
Business psychologists have spent years studying and applying what they know within the workplace. We’ve learnt about how people perceive the world, how they think, feel, behave. They know why people make mistakes, when they work at their best and what it takes to get them to work at their best. We know that people are complex and we know there’s still a lot we don’t know. Most of all, we’re ethical. We won’t pretend we have all of the answers but I think we are in one of the best placed positions to begin to answer your questions.
How much time and money do people invest in how they look? Or what car they drive? How many bedrooms they have? And how much money they earn?
In our Western world, we hold these things with high regard. It can symbolise status; give us an air of confidence, authority and superiority. But how long lasting are these social trappings?
The field of positive psychology may have some of the answers. According to, Sonja Lyubomirsky, these pursuits of happiness are transitory and only make up 10% of our overall happiness. 10%, that’s not a lot, is it? So how can we get happier? Where is the other 90%?
If we look further at the happiness pie, 50% of it is based on our nature, in other words, our genes. Some people are born being genetically happier than others; whilst 40% is based on our environment (nurture). It’s the old question, how much is nature, and how much is nurture? We’ve known for a long time, it’s an interaction between the two. What’s really interesting is how the environment can impact upon our genes.
Let’s take a set of identical twins for example, where one twin has developed schizophrenia; it’s not guaranteed that the other identical twin will develop this condition. Why not? Since, twins share 100% of their DNA. It is because schizophrenia is not 100% biological. It is a mixture of nature and nurture. The environment can perhaps trigger some of these conditions that lay lurking in the genetic soup. Therefore, there’s a lot that we can do in the way we live our lives and how we buffer ourselves against environmental triggers, like stress and well-being. Essentially, how we cope with stress and become more resilient to life’s set backs.
In the UK and indeed across developed cultures, the advent of technology and social media, is believed to have contributed to the blurring of work-life balance. All too often, people can be enjoying their leisure time when an email from work can suddenly invade their personal space. Have you ever checked into your emails when you are supposed to he on annual leave? Even when you are not checking emails, are you thinking about work when you are away? All of these factors of not switching off and blurred time boundaries have added to the increase in stress that we see in organisations. This leads to higher levels of sickness rates, intention to leave and disengagement. in essence, a sick workforce. This can have a major impact on the bottom line, e.g., profitability.
The question is what can we do to build resilience, stay healthy in mind and buffer against genetic conditions, since it’s not inevitable that we will develop a condition even when we are genetically predisposed to it? How can we invest in 40% of the happiness pie? The work of Martin Seligman, Shaun Achor, Sonya Lyubomirsky, shows some compelling results. By applying the principles of positive psychology, people can build up a positive mindset very quickly with some amazing results.
More and more businesses are starting to cotton on to the impact this way of thinking can have on well-being and ways of working. It really is very simple to apply and far reaching in terms of its impact. A word of caution is advised here. It’s not a quick fix fad. It needs to be understood and applied effectively. It is most successful when it is embedded within a business culture and people can see the benefits for themselves. Some people will always be easier to convince than others and there are resistors, like with any change. Individual differences are important to consider, e.g., age, as, happiness alone is not an isolated variable; it interacts with other psychological factors, e.g., social support and time pressure (Zacher et al, 2014).
So how much time do people spend on investing this type of development for themselves? After all, it makes up 40% of the pie. The answer? Not many; some people don’t realise it’s available and they certainly are not aware of the benefit to them and their organisations.
It’s worth considering how it might benefit your organisation or you.
I started my career wanting to set the world alight with my passion for psychology. I thought it was the most amazing subject known to humankind (bit over the top- I know!) and I couldn’t understand why anyone with an interest in people would not want to study this most wonderous subject. After all, if it could help me to get by in life with a bit more ease, wouldn’t we all want to sign up?
I then discovered along the way, an even more amazing field. Not only could I become a psychologist; I could become an Occupational Psychologist. I could apply my learning to the field of people at work. Fantastic, I thought. I could work in lots of different types of organisations. I could meet lots of interesting people: Leaders, CEOs, Teams, entrepreneurs, small business leaders, etc, the list is endless. I could have conversations with people to support them to develop better working practices, build their confidence, become happier at work and start to worry less about things outside of their control. I was hooked!
After becoming disenchanted with the training and development being offered to organisations, I decided to branch out on my own and created; Workology! I began, like lots of people in business, making lots of mistakes, dusting myself off and starting again. It’s how we learn best! The most astonishing encounter to date has to be the lack of understanding of what exactly it is that I do. People ask me ‘so what do you do for a living?’, to which I reply ‘I’m a business psychologist (big smile on my face). ‘Ah, interesting (long pause). What exactly is a business psychologist?’ In the beginning I would answer, ‘I apply psychological principles, theory and research to enabling better working practices.’ ‘Ah’, they replied (eyes glazed over). Followed, by silence.
I soon learnt from my mistake and now reply, ‘I support people to get the best out of them at work.’ The best response so far has been ‘whoop de doo.’ This made me roar with laughter and I felt humbled by that. I think it’s important to keep the language simple, not to dumb down the subject but to make it more accessible. Glazed over expressions are not appealing to watch. If people don’t get what it is we do, then we need to be clear about how to get our message across.
The field of Occupational/ Business Psychology has been accused of being too beige. Beige because of it’s lack of a voice, brand and a lack of influence within the business world. What is it that we do?
We get to profile people’s personalities, measure their abilities at work. Interview some amazing people for senior positions (doesn’t have to always be senior to be interesting). Deliver workshops on creativity and innovation; positive psychology; equality and diversity, etc. We get variety and visit lots of different organisations, have conversations about how people think, feel and behave. Gaining an insight into some really important issues, for example, work-place bullying and raising awareness of these issues (currently 20% of staff within the NHS reported being bullied, Carter et al, 2013). And, I get great work-life balance (important for well-being and engagement) . Does that sound beige to you?
Perhaps, businesses think it’s too beige because of a lack of visible results and return of investment (ROI). It can seem like a costly investment for many small businesses if they don’t understand what it is they are buying in to. In terms of ROI, reduction in sickness rates (which costs UK business 29 bn a year), intention to leave (linked to job autonomy; Degen et al, 2014) and disengagement doesn’t seem beige to me? Currently, 13% of businesses invest in creativity and innovation development. Companies that invest in this type of training quickly see a ROI in their sales and profits. They are more equipped to think in terms of strategic planning, new products, opportunities and team cohesion because they are more open to ideas and challenges.
Are you a creative type? People often think of themselves as being either the artistic type or not. Are creative people born with ‘it’ or can they develop and learn to be creative? What does it mean to be creative? And what does this have to do with business?
When you look at great artists in history, there’s this belief that people are born with this talent, that it is genetic. It has also been linked with mental health conditions. Research has often hypothesised about the madness within the creative mind (The Karolinska Institute, Stockholm) and cited examples throughout history (Churchill, Hemingway, Beethoven).
What do we know of creative types? Firstly, we need to know what it is. Creativity is about being able to generate ideas. This could be anything, not just art & craft ideas; it could be developing ideas within business, so for example, thinking of different ways of improving productivity at work, thinking of a new product and coming up with ideas in order to be competitive and enjoy what you do.
Recent research has shown that walking helps increase the flow of creativity (Colzato, Leiden University). Leading organisations encourage their staff to have walking meetings, rather than sitting at a board table. Creativity training can help facilitate a creative environment in which to generate lots of ideas. New research suggests that the best time to get creative is when we are tired. For morning types, evenings would be an optimum time to generate ideas (Weith and Zacks). Night owls would be most creative in the mornings. This is due to the sleep-wake cycle. When we are tired, our perfectionistic, sensible self is dumbed down so that we are able to let our minds wander and come up with lots more ideas. This can also be achieved through creative training techniques without feeling tired.
To be creative, do we need to think of the future or now? There are some exciting ideas currently arguing that our world is too complex to predict the future, instead, it makes more sense to be a ‘now-ist’ (Joi Ito, Head of MIT Media Lab).
Whilst creativity is about ideas, innovation is about putting those ideas into practice. ‘Our future growth relies on competitiveness, and innovation, skills and productivity…and these in turn rely on the Education of our people.’ (Julia Gillard). Joi Ito, would argue; ‘Education is what people do to you, learning is what you do to yourself.’
Examples of innovation are:
Smartphones- the way we communicate, shop, listen to music.
Google- Don’t know the answer? Google it.
World wide web – Shrunk the world
Crowdsourcing- raising funds for innovative business ideas/ charities
Amazon- On line shopping
Joi Ito- Citizen Science Projects (measuring global radiation)
Whilst some people may be able to come up with creative ideas, being innovative is another story. Innovation takes real planning. Thinking ahead and being resourceful, responsible and problem solving are skills that require careful deliberation.
What creative ideas do you have? How can you turn it into an innovation? Give Workology a call to discuss how.